Waste separation

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Among waste separation , technical waste separation , means the separate collection of different types of waste . The unmixed possible waste can then either as a secondary raw material ( waste materials , excavated materials and others) of a further recovery or a species compatible disposal (such as residual waste , construction waste , hazardous waste are fed / Problem substances). Waste avoidance , waste separation and old material recycling or recovery of valuable materials are the most important elements for effective environmental protection in this area.


Waste separation comprises two aspects that depend on the polluter group:

Both require fundamentally different waste separation systems : While for household waste, uniform systems are desired across the board, which can be integrated into municipal waste management, companies need special solutions tailored to specific industries and products that can be integrated into internal business processes. Today, however, both components are often integrated into a uniform waste separation system in terms of the legal framework, financing and waste management organization.

Not only the waste from consumption and production (primary waste) has to be separated, but also the secondary waste that arises from disposal ( waste incineration ashes and slag, shredded material , sewage sludge , remains from animal carcass recycling ).

Waste separation comprises two methods, sorting by the polluter himself and subsequent sorting in waste sorting systems (splitting) . Today the trend is to facilitate waste separation through measures in the production of goods ( recycling-friendly construction ). Measures such as the Green Dot (financing provided in advance for materials that can be easily separated automatically in packaging) ensure that the residual waste from the disposal industry can also be efficiently separated. This makes waste an important economic asset, which makes disposal financially affordable overall: From this perspective, waste separation is a form of refining otherwise worthless material. This principle forms the basis of modern waste management.

A good waste separation rate (the ratio of sorted waste to residual waste) is therefore the basis for a good recycling rate (the ratio of recycled waste to waste incineration and landfill waste ) and the cleanest possible thermal recovery.

While waste separation was voluntary in the early years of the green movement, it is strictly regulated by law in modern industrialized countries today for both private households and companies. Financing is mostly done through garbage fees , taxes or levies on products (pre-financing in sales).



Garbage container in Leipzig, 1990

In 1961, when the Federal Association of the German Waste Management Industry (BDE) was founded, the collection of waste and recyclable materials was better organized. Service providers such as Sulo , Trienekens , Rethmann , Edelhoff emerged, who later, with the help of the legislature, implemented the recycling idea industrially.

Around the same time, the republic-wide SERO collection system was established in the GDR , which was incorporated into the German structures after German reunification in 1990.

In Germany, the garbage is generally already sorted at the consumer. Depending on the waste policy and the existing recycling, the separation is carried out differently from region to region. Most often, waste paper , waste glass (partly divided into white and colored glass) and packaging are collected by Duales System Deutschland GmbH. The collection and composting of biowaste , battery recycling and recycling of old cars in the car junkyard also work well. The Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act (ElektroG) has been in force since 2005 .

In 2007, around 10% of compact fluorescent lamps in Germany were properly disposed of, which is well below the return rates in other countries and is criticized by environmental associations as inadequate. As a result, "in 2006 alone, several hundred kilograms of mercury were released into the environment in an uncontrolled manner."

In order to recycle municipal waste, it was previously necessary to separate the waste according to material groups as accurately as possible. In the meantime, there are well- engineered , automated technical sorting systems that can also separate mixed municipal waste (partially) by type. The image of public collection containers known in the past few years could therefore change in the future.

Since waste is not only generated by consumers, but also in the economy, there is also a need to collect waste there. So fall z. B. large amounts of rubble , wood scraps, plastic scraps and metal scraps. The Commercial Waste Ordinance , which was fundamentally modernized in 2017, regulates the handling and documentation obligations.

In order to reduce the sorting effort when collecting garbage - in-house or in the form of supra-regional collection systems, it is mandatory according to the Recycling Management Act to pre-sort the garbage. Section 11 names the types of waste: paper, glass, plastics, organic waste, metals, electrical appliances, bulky waste. Insofar as separate garbage collection bins are set up for this, you have to dispose of your garbage separately in them. Another question is whether the disposal costs can easily be apportioned via the operating costs, which is excluded with regard to bulky waste, for example, if the cause is known or the costs are only incurred once. A system was introduced through the recycling code, which can be found mainly on products made of plastic , but also on other objects.

Around 350 million tons of waste are generated in Germany every year. The largest share, namely around 200 million t, is mineral waste. Of the mineral waste, approx. 100 million t of soil and stones, approx. 73 million t of construction waste ( building rubble ), approx. 15 million t of ashes and slag from power plants and other incineration processes, approx. 7 million t of blast furnace slag and blast furnace slag as well as approx. 6 million tons of steel mill slag. Most of the soil material is used for backfilling measures.

Of the 455 kg of waste per capita in German households in 2009, 199 kg was household and bulky waste, 143 kg of recyclable materials and around 111 kg of organic waste.

The separation of waste has been propagated in Germany with the aim of improving environmental protection. The target may have been achieved for highly polluting waste. However, the separation of fractions of household waste is regularly discussed.

In fact, as a result of the separate collection, the specific expenditure for disposal in the municipalities has increased, and thus the costs per household have risen considerably. There is no evidence in the literature that the volume of waste or the mass of waste per inhabitant would have decreased.

In contrast, in private households, waste separation and disposal and the disposal of containers are followed in order to use the different tariffs (example Free Hanseatic City of Bremen):

  • Used batteries of all kinds (to be left free of charge at collection points, as paid for by the manufacturer for disposal),
  • Used oil and oil canisters (to be left free of charge at collection points, as paid for by the manufacturer for disposal),
  • Medicines (some can be taken back free of charge at the pollutant collection points in some cities / districts, otherwise disposal via pharmacies)
  • Construction rubble (small amounts can be left at collection points for a small fee),
  • Disposable bottles and cans (return to beverage outlets against reimbursement of the can or bottle deposit)
  • Electronic scrap (to be left free of charge at collection points, as paid for by the manufacturer),
  • Garden waste (to be left free of charge at collection points, removal and recycling covered by the fees for residual waste),
  • Glass (free of charge for the household, as removal and recycling cover costs for the disposal company)
  • Green waste, brown bin (free of charge for the household as collection and recycling are covered by the fees for residual waste),
  • Garbage (collection and removal only on roads that have finally been built by municipal street cleaning, paid for by property tax)
  • Metal scrap (to be left free of charge at collection points, since removal and recycling more than cover costs for the disposal company),
  • Paper and cardboard, blue bin (free of charge for the household as collection and recycling cover costs for the disposal company),
  • Returnable bottles (return in the sales outlets against reimbursement of the bottle deposit)
  • Residual waste, gray bin or black sack (chargeable, fixed tariff with minimum volume per inhabitant),
  • Collection of pollutants (to be left free of charge at collection points, removal and recycling covered by the fees for residual waste),
  • Bulky waste (free collection on request, collection and recycling covered with the fees for residual waste or left at collection points for a small fee),
  • Textiles (collection containers and collection points, removal and recycling more than covering costs for the disposal company),
  • Packaging waste, yellow sack or yellow bin (compensated by the delivery of the packaging industry - dual system),

In other federal states there may be other classifications and offers.


In Austria, waste separation is regulated - in addition to common EU law - in the central waste management law of the federal government, the handling of residual waste in the landfill ordinance and the state laws. Waste separation is generally the object of the communities (street collection / waste collection , operation of recycling centers , waste disposal sites u. A.), Some aspects are handled in the central waste separation and -sammlungssystemen, the packaging recycling in the ARA system , which of the Altstoff Recycling Austria and its subsidiaries ( such as the company ARES for operational waste disposal solutions) and industry recycling companies, or the separation and disposal of radioactive waste by the Nuclear Engineering Seibersdorf  (NES) of the Austrian Institute of Technology .

In Austria today, all waste - at least in large groups - is recorded separately: (as of 2010) around 52 million tons of waste are generated annually, of which almost 50 million tons are primary waste. 32 million tons are of mineral origin, 25 million tons of which are excavated materials that are already generated separately in the construction industry and - apart from the sheer quantity - are largely unproblematic, 5.2 million tons of solid municipal waste (e.g. building rubble). 4 million t are wood waste, almost 2 million t scrap metal , 1.8 million t paper waste . Food waste comprises around 1 million t, other biologically usable waste 2 million t. Almost 400,000 t come from animal husbandry and slaughter (animal by-products - a rather problematic group - a little over 1 million t in total). The rest, an amount of roughly 5 million t, is commercial and industrial waste of various waste groups. Hazardous waste amounts to around 1 million t (i.e. 2% of the total waste).

For the purpose of processing and recycling, 62% of this is separated (national recycling rate , leading in Europe), and 15% for thermal treatment.

Municipal waste from households and similar facilities comprises just under 4 million tonnes, of which over 2.2 million tonnes are recorded separately, 250,000 tonnes of bulky waste, 1.4 million tonnes is mixed waste that has to be separated further (primary waste separation rate 57%) . Here the deposit rate is only 0.5%, 8.5% is biotechnologically (waste wood, etc.), 17.5% biogenic (compost), 40% thermally recycled, 30.5% directly recycled, 2.5% are problem materials and electronic scrap. In the case of unsorted waste, the material recycling rate is around 84.2%, thermal 14.3%, biogenic 0.5%, 1% is landfilled. In total, just over 400,000 tonnes of household waste have to be disposed of (11.3%), and even this amount is separated in terms of its landfillability.

In trade and industry, over two million tonnes of waste materials are collected separately in the ARA system, over 97% of which can be recycled materially or energetically. By far the largest fractions are waste paper, cardboard, cardboard and corrugated cardboard (900,000 t) and iron and steel (750,000 t). By far the largest polluter is the construction industry, which accounts for a good half of Austria's total waste through excavated materials. Excavation is also separated according to numerous criteria (origin soil - earth or rock - or technical bulk material, possible contamination such as fire debris or contaminated sites) and over 60% is recycled (terrain corrections, subsoil backfilling, dam construction, etc.), the rest is used in landfill construction . Other construction waste, in particular building rubble, is separated less efficiently and represents the largest problem group in terms of waste separation today.

In the case of packaging waste, which accrues to the extent of 800,000 t, the waste separation rate is 96%. There are also 1.46 million public collection bins across Austria, and 1.44 million households are connected to the Gelber Sack collection system . Resources such as glass and scrap metal and in particular the separation of organically usable waste, where the recycling rate in the area of ​​municipal waste then reaches a European peak value of 33% with an exceptional character (Netherlands as No. 2: 24%), traditionally achieve high rates.


In Switzerland there are special forms of waste separation, e.g. B. the recycling of PET bottles (see PET recycling Switzerland ).


In 2000, 14.2% of urban solid waste was collected and treated in Italy. In 2012, 34.9% of the waste was recycled, 45.2% in 2014, 52.5% in 2016, 55.5% in 2017 and 58.8% in 2018.


The current German system of waste separation in households is criticized for its unnecessary expense and inefficiency due to the existing technical waste separation options. In addition, around half of the packaging waste that is collected in the yellow bin or sack is not recycled, but incinerated. This is how Karl Ihmels , former district administrator in the Lahn-Dill district, says:

“We have such a complicated network of additional expenses for the families and additional expenses for the waste management industry. And none of that would be necessary if modern techniques were used. "

According to Michael Braungart , head of the international environmental research institute Epea in Hamburg, it is completely irrelevant whether you separate the garbage or throw everything in a bin; instead of lazy and indifferent citizens, industry and politics are to blame for the garbage problem. Too many products and packaging consist of material mixtures that can hardly be separated and recycled.

Max Monzel, managing director of the municipal waste disposal company ART Trier, had the residual waste of 230,000 residents mixed with the contents of their yellow bags for two months in 2009 and then separated from them again at a test facility. After the experiment, he sums up that the re-sorting works technically without any problems and that a 97 percent pure plastic mixture can be obtained from the garbage.

According to Sylvia Kotting-Uhl , Member of the Bundestag for the Greens , the dual system has developed in such a way that it ridicules citizens' environmental awareness and prevents ecological innovations.

In many cities, pilot projects are already underway to relieve people of waste separation.


  • Heiko Doedens, Heinz-Josef Dornbusch: Developments in the systems of separate collection . In: Garbage and Garbage. Trade journal for the treatment and disposal of waste. Schmidt, Munich, 37.2005,6, ISSN  0027-2957 , pp. 301-308
  • Norbert Thomas: Luxury garbage . Zebulon Verlag, Düsseldorf 1994, ISBN 3-928679-19-8 .
  • 7 misconceptions about garbage. In: Welt am Sonntag compact , No. 52 of December 30, 2018, pp. 28-30

Individual evidence

  1. Lightcycle Annual Report 2007 on lightcycle.de
  2. Press release from Deutsche Umwelthilfe: Ban on incandescent lamps requires increased commitment from municipalities and retailers on duh.de (July 10, 2009)
  3. Action weeks “under the sign of the energy-saving lamp” at Karstadt started on presseportal.de
  4. Working draft of the federal government of an ordinance laying down requirements for the introduction and discharge of substances into the groundwater, the installation of substitute building materials and the use of soil and soil-like material (shell ordinance on groundwater, substitute building materials, soil protection) of January 6, 2011 ( Memento from December 24, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 1.5 MB), p. 133.
  5. Federal Statistical Office, press release number 050 of February 8, 2011 - 455 kilograms of household waste per inhabitant in 2009 , online, accessed on February 8, 2011
  6. Vivien Timmler: Waste separation: In Germany there is chaos in tons. Retrieved August 2, 2020 .
  7. General information on waste separation and waste avoidance ( Memento from April 17, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) , help.gv.at
  8. ^ Waste management in the federal states with the exception of Vienna ( Memento from April 17, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) , help.gv.at
  9. ^ Legal basis , Lebensministerium.at
  10. ^ Company disposal solutions ( Memento from August 9, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) , ara.at
  11. Federal Environment Agency, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management - Department VI / 3: The inventory of waste management in Austria - Status report 2012  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.lebensministerium.at , figure proportions of selected waste groups in 2010 (base 51, 72 million tons) , p. 7; Table of waste generation (primary and secondary waste) in 2010 - breakdown by waste groups according to ÖNORM S 2100 (information in tonnes) , p. 8; and various sections from 1.2 Summary of the inventory of waste management in Austria , p. 2 ff (pdf, Lebensministerium.at).
  12. Highest recycling rates in Austria and Germany - but UK and Ireland show fastest increase. European Environment Agency, eea.europa.eu/pressroom, March 19, 2013
  13. Status report 2012 , Figure recovery and disposal of waste in 2010 (basis: 51.74 million tons) , p. 9.
  14. Status report 2012 , table of municipal waste from households and similar facilities in 2009 and 2010 - separate collection according to main fractions in comparison , p. 19.
  15. Status report 2012 , figure municipal waste from households and similar facilities - recovery and disposal in the years 1989 to 2010 , p. 26, and treatment , p. 30
  16. Status report 2012 , table of waste materials from households and similar facilities in 2010 (without sorted waste materials from MBT and splitting) - recovery and disposal , p. 39
  17. Status report 2012 , p. 21.
  18. Status report 2012 , 2.12. Separately collected waste materials from trade and industry , p. 51 ff.
  19. Waste Catalog Ordinance (ÖNORM S 2100)
  20. Status report 2012 , 2.14. Waste from construction , p. 62 ff.
  21. ^ Waste separation ( memento of July 18, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) , ara.at
  22. European Environment Agency: Municipal waste management in Austria , February 2013, p. 3, and Figure 2.1 Recycling of MSW in Austria , p. 7 (pdf, eea.europa.eu). Compare also Managing municipal solid waste - a review of achievements in 32 European countries . EEA Report No 2/2013, ISSN  1725-9177 , Figure 2.5 Municipal waste recycling rates in 32 European countries, 2001 and 2010 , p. 13 ( pdf , eea.europa.eu).
  23. http://dati.istat.it/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=DCCV_INDRACDIFF
  24. ^ Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale: Rapporto Rifiuti Urbani Edizione 2015. Accessed on May 9, 2016 .
  25. https://www.insic.it/Tutela-ambientale/Notizie/Rapporto-Rifiuti-Urbani-2017-i-dati-ISPRA/ec4f1be7-a315-4a86-a850-81db5c1ab663
  26. http://www.ricicloni.it/assets/files/94/bb/comuni-ricicloni-2019.pdf
  27. https://www.ansa.it/canale_ambiente/notizie/rifiuti_e_riciclo/2019/11/28/rifiuti-esperto-in-italia-servono-5-termovalorizzatori_cc5fa61c-bff2-441e-93b6-b18168bd1fb0.html
  28. a b Against the Separates , ZEIT Online
  29. Is it worth separating waste? Half of the yellow sack is burned
  30. Senseless collecting and sorting - The fairy tale of waste separation , Panorama, Das Erste
  31. Waste from the system , ZEIT Online
  32. ^ Waste separation in Germany: The Yellow Revolution , SPIEGEL
  33. Sense and nonsense of waste separation , helpfull.de

Web links

Wiktionary: waste separation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations